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Plan for new freeway lanes may get fast-tracked

County to seek help from federal government to push ideas, including freeway widening

Posted: April 22, 2010 10:45 p.m.
Updated: April 23, 2010 4:55 a.m.

Santa Clarita Valley commuters could see lanes added to the Interstate 5 and Highway 14 freeway interchange sooner than originally thought under a plan approved by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority on Thursday.

Two county supervisors, including Michael D. Antonovich, won approval for road construction to join rail and other mass-transit projects in the so-called 30/10 plan, spearheaded by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

The plan calls for the federal government to fund a countywide transit-improvement upgrade that was going to be done over a 30-year period with a sales-tax hike approved by voters in 2008.

Under the 30/10 plan, the upgrades would be accelerated to a 10-year timetable and the money paid back to the federal government over 30 years from the sales-tax hike.

Antonovich, who represents the Santa Clarita Valley, was critical of Villaraigosa's initial plan because it funded mass-transit projects, mostly in Los Angeles, and left out road improvements in more outlying cities, including Santa Clarita.

Antonovich also serves on the Metropolitan Transit Authority board, and on Thursday he and fellow Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas won approval from fellow board members to add the road improvements to the 30/10 plan.

Widening of the I-5 and Highway 14 freeway interchange is among those proposed improvements.

The entire plan hinges on federal approval.

The county would pay back the federal government using funds from Measure R, which county voters approved in 2008, said Michael Cano, transportation deputy for Antonovich.

The measure increased the county sales tax by a half-cent to pay for new transportation projects.

"We want to secure a financial mechanism, or some favorable rate of return, that would allow us to build our projects upfront faster," Cano said. "The type of funding is not defined. It could be a combination of things."

Santa Clarita, which is the fourth-largest city in Los Angeles County, contributes significantly to Measure R funds. Officials project the city will add about $12 million this year, said Mike Murphy, Santa Clarita intergovernmental relations officer.

Before the transit authority met Thursday, Antonovich said the 30/10 plan snubbed the SCV and other north county communities because it didn't include any projects for highways - the arteries of county transit.

"Since the entire county is contributing to Measure R, as much as possible, the entire county should reap the benefits," Murphy said.


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